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Rigby on board to drive female football

Raphael Canicosa

WA’s female and regional football participation numbers are set for a boost if Natasha Rigby has her way.

Brimming with enthusiasm for her new position as Development Officer at Football West, the Perth Glory defender is excited at the prospect of unearthing new talent and providing more opportunities for girls to flourish in the game.

“I was drawn to the position because football is my whole life,” she said. “Building and developing the game for women is what I’m all about.”

Rigby has a personal interest in improving opportunities for players in regional areas, as she was born and raised in WA’s South West.

As part of the Female Club Ambassador Program, a partnership between Football West and Perth Glory that aligns Westfield W-League players with grassroots clubs, Rigby recently returned to her home town to promote football to locals.

“It’s really great because it’s connecting the players from the ground with their idols, so they’re able to see that clear pathway (from grassroots to the W-League),” she said.

Rigby believes increasing participation at grassroots level will assist in identifying talented players at a younger age, increasing and improving their access to development opportunities.

“You get the kids involved at an early age in a supportive, enjoyable environment and they’ll only continue from there,” she said.

“We’re trying to improve our pathways for boys and girls all the way through, ensuring we’re fostering those social competitions as well, because that’s where it comes from.”

Rigby is working with Football West Head of Development Jamie Harnwell in organising the upcoming annual Country Week for regional players, which will take place at Beale Park in Spearwood from September 25 to 29. The event, which identifies players for the 2018 Country Camp, has sentimental value for Rigby.

“I first attended Country Week as a player when I was just 15,” she said. “Helping coordinate the event now will be special for me.”

Her participation in that Country Week led Rigby to be selected for Country Camp, which is a Football West-run training program for talented regional footballers.

From there, she was selected in the WA State Team, which travelled to Coffs Harbour for the National Youth Championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010. After three years developing her skills, Rigby took a break from football to focus on study in sport science, exercise and health.

She pulled on the boots a year later for UWA before joining local Bankwest Women’s Premier League side Queens Park in 2014, a decision that reignited her passion for football.

“Queens Park welcomed me with open arms and the competitive but family-focused environment combined with excellent coaching really helped me to develop as a player,” she said.

Rigby’s performances for Queens Park led to her selection in the WA Women’s State Team to play against Perth Glory Women in 2016. Her obvious talent was rewarded when she later signed for Glory.

She is now preparing to play in another WA v Glory match on October 3 but will this time she will be representing the W-League club.

 “Women’s football has so much momentum at the moment and I’m so grateful to be working in such an exciting space and playing for the team of my dreams,” she said.

Balancing her busy playing and training schedules with her role at Football West is no trouble for Rigby, who hopes to someday fulfil her dream of being a head coach.

“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” she said.

“Mentoring young players and helping them get through their own experiences has made me grow as a person and I hope to be able to return that favour for them.

“I had the pleasure of being Assistant Coach to Darren Young for the U15 Girls team participating in this year’s National Youth Championships and that was a great experience, having played in the same competition as a teenager.”